Crystal jewels to be STEM showcase


A range of crystals, including those often used in SmartPhones and lasers, have been grown by scientists in order to create a replica of the Crown Jewels.

A range of crystals, including those often used in SmartPhones and lasers, have been grown by scientists in order to create a replica of the Crown Jewels.

The stunning display is part of preparations for this year’s Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair, which takes place in Birmingham later this month.

The replica jewels contain thousands of crystals grown by scientists using everyday household items. It is hoped the display will inspire the next generation of STEM students, giving them an insight into the science behind acid-based reactions – which form the basis of nearly all biological processes in living things.

A guide has also been published so that students can grow their own crystals in the classroom.

The “jewels” took eight months to create and among the ingredients used were household items such as drain unblocker, sandpaper and antiseptic cream.

The centre piece of the crown, the St Edward’s Sapphire, was made from a common cleaning powder mixed with boiling water to create a copper sulphate crystal. The collection also includes gems such as the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring – which is a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire in a cluster of 14 diamonds set in white gold.

Synthetic gems like these have many important uses in daily life including in lasers, SmartPhone screens, and watch faces.

The project was led by top physicists and the display also marks Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest ever reigning monarch later this year.

Paul Jackson, CEO of Engineering UK, said: “By taking a simple classroom experiment as inspiration, we worked with scientists to create this unique crown, with the aim of showing young people just how fun and fascinating science, technology, engineering and maths can be. 

Dr Prabhakaran Dharmalingam, head of the Crystal Growth Unit at Oxford University, who worked on the display, said: “It’s been great to have been given the chance to get involved with the Big Bang Fair. Crystals are amazing – not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at, but they are also very useful. 

“A lot of important discoveries, many that went on to win Nobel prizes, were only possible because of crystals. I hope that this project will help get young people excited about science and inspired to take that excitement further with their studies and into their careers.”

The Big Bang Fair is the UK’s largest single celebration of science and engineering for young people and is visited by thousands of students and teachers each year.

The jewels will be on display at this year’s event, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham from March 11 to 14. Visit

The organisers have also released a step-by-step guide to creating your own crystals in the classroom. Visit

CAPTION: Spot the difference: The Crown Jewels recreated in crystals by scientists. The collection also includes a replica of the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring (Photos: The Big Bang Fair)


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